Security in unfamiliar places: Global advance work
Conducting advance work in a foreign country, whether for a one-day trip to attend a meeting or a three-week family vacation at a major international event, is very different from domestic travel security.
For domestic trips, security personnel are familiar with the culture, the language and typical, day-to-day situations. Advance work is still necessary, but security is more predictable.
When traveling to other nations, especially those with different cultures and languages, risks can be much higher. Robberies, kidnappings, lax local law enforcement, and other situations can be factors.
Goals of global security advance work
Whether conducted by an individual or a security team, a global security advance strategy should have four goals:
- Make arrangements prior to the client’s arrival at a specific location
- Reduce risk of exposure to unwanted encounters and situations
- Establish lodging for the client and his/her family (if traveling together)
- Create efficiency in time management for the client
The advance agent or team often manages all trip details, including lodging and transportation, requirements for special events, emergency services, and information on cultural and public relations.
As in domestic advance work, security professionals should be proactive and understand every aspect of a trip, from transportation to facilities to events, before the trip occurs.
The Practical Advance Model
The proven global advance strategy we recommend is the Practical Advance Model, which is built on three critical components:
- Trip Advance
- Site Advance
Pre-Advance activities begin long before the trip. Security professionals should start initial assessments of itineraries and start asking “What if” questions. They should also research local threats at each planned location, including current crime trends, natural conditions that can lead to security risks, and special circumstances, such as protestors, terrorists and organizations that can endanger a client.
The second part of the Pre-Advance strategy is to establish relationships and coordinate with applicable local personnel, from law enforcement to event planners and hosts. Security teams should develop security checklists, site inspection checklists and communication plans.
Trip Advance is the next step in advance work. The advance team should survey airports, hotels and other places where the client will travel. In addition, the team should meet key on-site personnel, conduct walk-throughs, drive routes, note road changes such as construction and closures, and document everything. Details matter in this phase.
Site Advance covers the security team’s actions immediately before the client arrives. The team should double-check that everything is as planned, prepare for itinerary changes, and review routes and venues one more time.
Understanding global risks
Local events and situations can disrupt even the most carefully developed travel plans, whether the situation is as serious as the eruption of a long-simmering feud among warlords or a saint’s day parade that will shut down an entire city.
Insufficient planning can create not only security risks, but also inconvenience and/or embarrassment. For example, when traveling to the Olympics, a client security detail decided to use motorcycles in its motorcade, not realizing that those motorcycles would be unusable in certain areas. In another instance, the security team did not have time to visit a meeting site ahead of time. The address turned out to be wrong, and the client and his security team arrived more than an hour late for an important meeting.
It isn’t the client’s job to know, for instance, that a building’s front entrance carries security risks, and that a discreet side entrance is a better choice. The client may not understand that a large shopping spree may overload the chartered plane. Those factors, and many others, are the advance team’s responsibility.
A thorough global advance strategy will typically require as many days of on-the-ground advance work as the trip itself. Due to cost considerations, many companies are reluctant to pay for a seven-day advance trip before a seven-day executive trip. However, cost-cutting for the security detail can lead to serious security consequences. Proper advance planning eliminates the need to react to dangerous situations in an unfamiliar environment.
Trips are better without drama
Car chases and shootouts with bodyguards make for exciting movies, but poor protection. Being proactive and avoiding incidents is much better (and more secure) than reacting to a situation, no matter how skilled the executive protection professional. A personal protection specialist or firm should strive for the same goals, whether a trip is domestic or foreign; a predictable trip where nothing untoward or unforeseen happens. A CFO may be reluctant to budget for a global advance detail because “we had one for the last trip and nothing happened.” But that is precisely the goal of a global advance detail: a safe, smooth, incident- free trip.